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Carlyle co-founder David Rubenstein eyes return to Africa with ‘own money’

By Aurélie M'Bida
Posted on Wednesday, 28 April 2021 07:46

David Rubenstein at the Davos Forum, 2018. Simon Dawson/Bloomberg/Getty

David Rubenstein, co-founder of the giant US private equity fund Carlyle, speaks about the difficulties faced investing in Africa, his ambition to return with his own money, the strength of the US economy, and the disappointment of certain BRICS investments.

David Rubenstein, co-founder of the global private equity giant The Carlyle Group (nearly $250bn in assets under management), was invited to speak by the African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, which brought together more than 350 participants from the sector for its annual conference from 20 to 23 April.

In his keynote address, Rubenstein spoke about his experience of working for nearly half a century in the global economy – including nearly 35 years in private equity.

Ready to make his comeback in Africa, the 71-year-old American billionaire looks at the state of private equity and investment opportunities across the continent and globally.

Here are some of his key points:

The dynamism of the African market is in question

Without explicitly naming the fund, Rubenstein outlined why Carlyle had stopped making direct investments in Africa a year earlier. He also explained that he had transferred the management of the $700m in assets of his Carlyle Sub-Saharan Africa Fund vehicle to former managers of the fund who have recently joined together to create Alterra Capital Partners.

In Africa, “…clearly there have been challenges”, says Rubenstein, pointing to US and European capital redeployed to developed markets when Covid-19 came along, as well as existing economic problems. He says Africa’s potential has “lived up yet to the expectations”, the returns have not been as attractive as some people thought they would be, confirming speculation that the US private equity giant has pulled out from sub-Saharan Africa.